Thoughts - Top Traits of PM and Business

Understand and incorporate these qualities / skillsets into your work everyday!

Note: They have evolved over the past decade.  Long ago, top qualities were all technical, then the focus became systems and communications. More recently, see below a list of the top 6 traits for today's successful business and project manager:

1)  Empathy
Tricky word to understand, becoming integral in the work place, especially with new generations, every single one of us wants it but the work place seems slow to adopt it (until now), merriam-webster defines it as:
  • the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this

In a world where we tend to think of business in terms of the bottom line and financial metrics, a discussion of the role of empathy in business seems like an indulgence. But is it really an indulgence, or is it a marketplace imperative instead?  We now have studies that show how organizations with happy employees, strong organizational health, empathetic leaders, and maybe even a social mission, outperform their peers.  See a good link from Forbes on this:  

2)  Trust
A word we often over-look and take for granted, hard to earn and easy to lose, merriam-webster defines it as:
  • assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something, one in which confidence is placed

Success in projects and business unquestionably requires some willingness to cooperate with and have faith in others. The question is, how much faith and in whom? When your project budgets, finances and resources are on the line, how can you do a better job of gauging trustworthiness and thereby improve your likelihood of success?  See a good article from Harvard Business School below:


3)  Communication
A word we humans have a tremendous level of variance in terms of how we understand what this is and how it should be provided or received (huge risk around successful delivery), merriam-webster defines it as:
  • an act or instance of transmitting, information transmitted or conveyed, a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior; also :  exchange of information

The ability to communicate with people at all levels is almost always named as the most important skill by project managers and team members. Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. There is a great deal of value placed on openness and directness. The project leader is also the team's link to the larger organisation. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and team achievements by creating explicit guidelines for accomplishing results and for the career advancement of team members.

4)  Cool Under Pressure
In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget and with no major problems or obstacles to overcome. But we don't live in a perfect world 

This type of skill must be practiced – and that environment is not fun. But you need to create an approach so when it occurs, you become systematic and grow and improve each time.  Some good tips include:
  • Do a dress rehearsal before the event (if you can predict it, go through it in your mind, prepare and visualize)
  • Address most urgent need first (prioritize and attack in sequence)
  • Listen (adrenaline will be flowing, people will want to run and shout, slow the pace, get multiple perspectives)
  • Know when to take a breather (respect the stress you and others are under)
  • Block out the white noise (anything unnecessary must be put to the back burner)

5)  Collaboration
A word that we need to see the value that it brings, it is the true skill that makes our earth move to the next level, merriam-webster defines it as:
  • to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor, to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force, to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

The most successful initiatives are driven by internal collaboration across organizational divisions as well as partnerships with external stakeholders to share mutual goals. "The more allies you have, the better," said David London, senior director for US government relations at eBay, which is the group responsible for the company's energy policy.  For more tips, see link below:

6)  Problem Solver
One of the more traditional traits, still required in the PM field, can have multiple definitions, Wikipedia defines it as:
  • consists of using generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to problems. Some of the problem-solving techniques developed and used in artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, etc. are related to mental problem-solving techniques studied in psychology.

Problem solving and decision-making are important skills for projects, business and life. Problem-solving often involves decision-making, and decision-making and there are processes and techniques to improve decision-making and the quality of decisions.  See link below to learn several techniques that are always helpful:

Challenge yourself to practice these traits every single day?   

Thoughts - When do you need Mentorship?

Answer - until you Die.

Who needs mentorship?
Answer - everyone, especially people in leadership/management positions.

Too often humans feel they achieve a level in their career, then they become content, complacent and feel they now have the knowledge and experience to plateau and give direction and manage others.

They then tend to focus on doing work in accordance to what they know best and feel most comfortable doing.  Next thing you know, even more coasting occurs and attitudes such as "don't rock the boat - if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it - it worked before so it will work again".

What these types of people are missing is that every 1-2 years, somewhere in the world, what they know (as an expert) has changed and they are becoming out of date.  New approaches and new learnings are available, but this will require growth, challenge, uncertainty and more intellectual work.  It also requires a collaborative, open door mentality, since new things will come from outside your group, from outside your city, from outside your country!

So how can a professional maintain growth and ensure it is properly aligned with all the other variables and constraints that they have to deal with on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

One amazing and simple tool that can address this is:  Mentorship.

I am not talking getting a few people around and asking for their thoughts...... that is more about being a friend and often the truth will never come out in case feelings get hurt and often only exciting topics are discussed.

I am talking about a formalized, structured form of mentorship.

Formal mentorship should include:
- objectives (why)
- trusting stakeholders (who will you work with, who will see/discuss the mentorship)
- clarity on the role of the mentor and mentee
- accountability of the mentor and mentee
- confidentiality and confidence in privacy (is there a process)
- pure interest in the mentee (the mentor must have your best intentions in mind, way too often, people mentor and give feedback but also make themselves feel better or they simply focus on discussing mistakes and weaknesses, I have often found managers have low confidence and good intention is there, but the pure vested interest into helping the mentee is not fully there)
- plans and milestones (does not have to be single all encompassing, but smaller sub plans around smaller milestones, you are on a path and a marathon, not a sprint)
- documentation and records (collect, monitor, track, trend, optimize)
- quantifiable tools and techniques (the how) in order to support the mentee
- regular meetings (booked out as far as the plan states (e.g. weekly for 6 mths, biweekly or monthly for 1 year)
- structured agendas
- be flexible to what works for both the mentor and mentee (the road ahead will not be totally clear sailing, there should be fog, curves, obstacles, be open to adapt

Mentorship programs are often available in every city.  If you cannot find one, simply go ask someone that you trust and feel there can be synergies.  The mentee must feel comfortable and initiate the process. Also, one will be very surprised, the mentor gains much in this relationship.  Mentors (like all humans) often like to share successes that they have had and also share their perspectives and opinions.

Final point, mentors do not have all the info at hand when giving their opinions, thus regard it as that - an opinion.  They will never know 100%, but they will try to give their opinion based on the information that they have received at that time.

Attached below is a message from a great mentorship program locally run in SK.

The Raj Manek Mentorship Program is currently expanding our social media outreach. We’ll be posting thoughtful content regarding mentorship, leadership, productivity, strategy and other business-themed topics, as well as information about upcoming Program events, seminars and webinars on our LinkedIn Company Page. Please go to the following link directed to our LinkedIn Company Page, and click the follow button in the upper right-hand corner:

A few other links:

ted talks- The importance of mentors

Million Women Mentors - Business Case for Workplace Mentoring

Harvard Business Review - CEOs need mentors too